Has getting flowers and candy gotten old? Has complaining about how we have to get flowers and candy because it's all a big marketing campaign gotten old?
The answers are yes, yes, and you're a tool. And I know that I only asked two questions, but if you're one of those people who really does complain about how holidays are just "invented" holidays brought on for marketing purposes, then you're a tool, because all holidays are just "invented" holidays created for one reason or another, and very often that reason is to make you buy stuff. (Except for St. Patrick's Day. That holiday exists to give frat boys a chance to start drinking at 7:30 a.m., which they do anyway, but it's considered socially acceptable on St. Patrick's Day.)
I learned long ago-- well, okay, this year -- to be a traditionalist when it comes to Valentine's Day; women do not want you to think "outside the box" when it comes to a day celebrating romance, so a set of six free-range chickens that you swear are totally legal, probably, and it's not like they inspect your backyard, you know... that's not your best gift option for Valentine's Day.
Your best gift option is to buy some flowers and bring them to her, and maybe get her some lingerie if your relationship has involved more than 3 dates, or if you are under 30, in which case (I understand) lingerie is perfectly acceptable as a first-date present. That's the end result of the Baby Boomer generation, you know: the last vestige of any moral fiber is removed from America.
No, this isn't a tired conservative screed, so keep reading. I just think that somewhere between "Not seeing your wife naked until 3 or 4 decades after you are married," and "let's put a bunch of naked kids on MTV and see what happens, because at the worst we'll end up having the cast for Teen Mom 3 already on set" there is a middle ground, but Baby Boomers have destroyed that by pretending for years that they were free-spirited rebels who "got it on" at Woodstock -- even though only about 1% of all Baby Boomers were aware that Woodstock was going on, let alone actually attended it-- and Baby Boomers went on to think of themselves as rebels and carefree spirits who weren't going to impose all those "rules" and "morals" on their kids (me, and most of you) , a handy excuse for "I'm too busy trying to get ahead at the office because I've got my eye on this little sports car to parent you, so, um, just do whatever comes naturally," the result of which was that my generation was left trying to piece together parenting tips from past episodes of Full House, plus we had to deal with all these old fossil Baby Boomers around the office, taking up all the good office spaces but not really contributing anything beyond "memories" of "being at" Woodstock, which isn't much of a contribution at all, which is how you go directly from Jimi Hendrix playing guitar with his teeth to the fact that my 4-year-olds are probably downstairs watching Snooki make out with people in a hot tub.
(I'd go check on them but (a) I'm busy writing this and (b) I don't ever want to actually see Snooki in a hot tub.)
And speaking of Snooki in a hot tub, isn't it about time I turned this back to the original point of this post, which is to take an alternative look at Valentine's Day -- giving you what you've come to expect from Whodathunkit!?, that being the three best things you really WANT to know about this important holiday. While TV stations and newspapers and magazines (which I still read, thank you very much) talk about the number of flowers that'll be ordered or the best dating sites or where to go for that special meal that'll involve square dancing, you can be thinking about these things. (For God's sake, don't talk about them! Didn't you read the part where I said women do not want nontraditional Valentine's Day? This is just to give you something to think about during that romantic meal, now that the Super Bowl's a week old.)
1. The world's oldest valentine was written in 1790.
Unless, that is, it was written in 1477. Or perhaps "sometime between 1415 and 1439" is more to your taste?
The point I'm trying to make is that if you want to claim the world's oldest valentine was written any old time, you could probably get away with it, given that the Internet has done the exact opposite of what we hoped it would.
The idea of the Internet was that it would put the world's knowledge at our fingertips.
(Okay, I know that the idea of the Internet was really that it would provide endless pornography, something that's also probably the Baby Boomers' fault [they invented Playboy, after all] but let's try to keep this highbrow, shall we?)
The idea of the Internet was that with a few clicks and maybe some (poorly-spelled) typing, we'd be able to find out anything, instantly. Want to know the lyrics to a Bobby Darin song? How long to blend a mandarin-orange smoothie? Whether President John Tyler really invented the robotic arm? (He did. It was crude, but he did.) You could find it out, and get your answers like that! (You have to imagine me snapping my fingers, there.)
But in reality, aside from the porn, the Internet hasn't really delivered the goods. Instead, what it's done is made all information equally available. Right or wrong, it's out there on the Internet and there's no way to tell whether what you're reading is accurate, or not. Unless it's by George Will. Then you can tell it's accurate, if a bit smarmy.
Take the matter of what's the world's oldest valentine. This site says that the world's oldest valentine dates back to 1790, which ought to effectively shut up those people who say it's just a marketing gimmick, since in the 1790s anyone caught "marketing" was first burned at the stake and then beheaded and then put in stocks for 48 hours, until the 1800s came along and people said "we're doing this all backwards" and fixed it, after which marketing came into vogue and became the dignified profession it is today, a group of people dedicated to finding ways to show us toilet paper scraps clinging to bears' butts.
But another site, entirely, says that the world's oldest valentine dates to 1477, and claims to have translated it, which is laughable in that the valentine (pictured as the heading for this entry) appears to be the preface to the Voynich Manuscript -- so it could say anything, but apparently says "You should want to marry me even if I'm poor," which is a heartfelt sentiment if I ever heard one. Sent by Margery Brews, the site says the valentine reads:
"Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill delivered.Which alone shows that it's not the oldest Valentine: there had to be one earlier, because otherwise, when the right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire got it, he'd say something like "What the hell is a Valentine?" after which he'd promptly be burned at the stake for heresy because he said hell. (Unless that was what Margery wanted?)
"Right reverent and worshipful and my right well-beloved valentine, I recommend me unto you full heartedly, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto his pleasure and your hearts desire.
"And if it pleases you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you.
"For there knows no creature what pain that I endure, And even on the pain of death I would reveal no more.
"And my lady my mother hath laboured the matter to my father full diligently, but she can no more get than you already know of, for which God knoweth I am full sorry.
"But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.
"For even if you had not half the livelihood that you have, for to do the greatest labour that any woman alive might, I would not forsake you.
Love you truly
"And if you command me to keep me true wherever I go, indeed I will do all my might you to love and never anyone else.
"And if my friends say that I do amiss, they shall not stop me from doing so.
"My heart me bids evermore to love you truly over all earthly things.
"And if they be never so angry, I trust it shall be better in time coming.
"No more to you at this time, but the Holy Trinity have you in keeping.
"And I beseech you that this bill be not seen by any non earthly creature save only yourself.
"And this letter was written at Topcroft with full heavy heart.
"Be your own Margery Brews."
Nice, though, that Margery didn't want anyone to ever see her "valentine," with it's lovely sentiments of "my mom is trying to get my dad to raise enough money so that you'll marry me" and here it is posted all over the Internet.
Still, there's a third site that says that Margery's bill of sale isn't the oldest valentine, but, rather, that the one written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, while he was captive in the Tower of London following yet another battle in what amounted to a never-ending war between England and France. Seriously, historians, why bother pretending that there were "different" wars, when all of European history up until 1957 amounts to "England and France were at war." It's not like people will get it right, anyhow -- the Internet will see to it that the facts get screwed up.
Charles was held captive for some 24 years following the battle in 1415, and somewhere in there, he wrote a valentine to his wife, which says
On St. Valentine's day, the lovely sun, carrying along its lighted candle, made its way that fine dawn, not long ago, into my locked chamber, all in secret.
And that sounds romantic, but remember, this was the middle ages, when they used language weirder than anything Tolkien could make up, so "the lovely sun" might have been a euphemism for "the girl who brings my breakfast," making that not so much the first Valentine as a medieval version of Cheaters!
2. Valentine's Day isn't actually for lovers.
Just the opposite, really. While we celebrate St. Valentine these days by giving people chalky candy hearts with lewd inscriptions on them, back in the day (the 1600s) the church used St. Valentine to quash romance. Or, as the Catholic Online website says:
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.
....His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr ...To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.
So, you see, they wanted the kids to have erotic thoughts about saints. No, wait, that doesn't seem right...
I don't know if I'd take everything that site says on faith, though (pun intended), as it goes on to keep the grand spirit of the Internet alive by noting that
The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.
So, we don't know who he was, or whether there really was just one, but we do know that he existed, because we found ancient buildings dedicated to him.
Which is also how we know Zeus existed, right? May want to think that one through, Catholic Church.
Februata Juno's name is given on most websites as the opposite: Juno Februata, and it's no wonder she was popular; according to legend, on her feast day, single men could draw names of women from a bowl and get paired up for "erotic games," remaining partners for 12 months, sometimes ending up married (and presumably not attending next year's event, if that happened.) It was like a medieval "7 Minutes In Heaven," I guess, although it was probably more accurately named "12 months of living in a hog slop with someone who, like you, has not been introduced to the concept of bathing."
3. I'm a little upset that they thought up "mutt-rimony" before I could.
Maybe you're spending your Valentine's Day alone, and you're thinking to yourself "Does it get any worse than this?"
I can answer that for you: yes, it does. While it may be true that nobody loves you (it probably is. Let's face it. You're not exactly trying, are you? Sitting around on Valentine's Day moping? How's that going to get you married? You know what gets you married? Attending a Juno Februata party. Get going!)
No matter what you're doing on February 14, it won't be as sadly lame/lamely sad as attending a pet wedding. Various organizations are pitching pet weddings as ways to raise money (for them) and prove just how few social opportunities you actually have (you). This site has the details on one dog wedding which drew guests (to Florida) from Texas, and if that isn't a reason to let the government take away wealth from people, I don't know what is.
If you read the entire story, though, you'll see that the dog owners also own mobile homes, which in retrospect I should've seen coming. Which makes me not a socialist, because I'm not just saying to take money from the rich (although I am saying that) but also to take money from the poor, if the poor are stupid enough to spend it getting their dogs married and not just get them married but handmake the outfits and write wedding vows. (What's left to write, after Woof!?)
Weddings are supposed to be good places to meet people -- but if your social life depends on meeting people at a dog wedding, you should probably just get used to staying in nights.
Click here for more posts like this one.
Want something a little more romantic? Click here for The Best Valentine's Song. and click here for The Best Ending To A Romantic Movie.
Feeling LESS romantic? Check out The Seven Best Songs That Show What Love Is Really Like.